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J. Michael Luttig

J. Michael Luttig


J. Michael Luttig


J. Michael Luttig is an American attorney best known for his period as an appellate court judge. J. Michael Luttig served in this capacity in the fourth circuit court from 1991 to 2006, writing opinions on many major cases during this period. Prior to this period, he worked in private practice from 1985 to 1989. In 1989, he entered the Department of Justice.


In 1994, J. Michael Luttig's father was killed during a carjacking. The defendant twice filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. However, many of the Supreme Court justices recused themselves from hearing the case because of their personal familiarity with J. Michael Luttig. The defendant was later executed.


One of his most prominent opinions was written in 2003 when hearing the case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. The case concerned Yaser Esam Hamdi, who had been captured in Afghanistan and detained as an enemy combatant despite being an American citizen. Hamdi appealed his custody and was rejected by the majority court, which deferred to the powers of the executive branch in deciding not to hear his case. However, in a dissenting opinion, J. Michael Luttig stated that Hamdi was entitled to a rehearing of his case, since he had not been granted due process. J. Michael Luttig also stated that the reasoning given in favor of the executive branch was insufficiently strong. The case was later heard by the US Supreme Court.


Another prominent case concerned the detention of another enemy combatant. The case concerned Jose Padilla, who was arrested in 2002 on suspicion of planning to detonate an large bomb. Padilla had been detained as an enemy combatant, a legal procedure which was validated by a Fourth Circuit Court decision. The majority opinion was written in September of 2005 by J. Michael Lutting. However, in December of that year a decision was made by the Bush administration to transfer Jose Padilla to a civilian prison. J. Michael Lutting refused to authorize this request, arguing that the government's request seemed to be motivated by a desire to avoid a Supreme Court hearing about the earlier opinion. The Supreme Court eventually approved this request.


Another prominent case occurred in 1999, when J. Michael Lutting wrote the opinion of the majority regarding the Violence Against Women Act. This was legislation permitting victims of gender-motivated crimes to file suit specifically regarding such actions in federal court. In his opinion, J. Michael Lutting argued that this act was unconstitutional, since Congress is not permitted to regulate interstate commerce by permitting citizens to file such damage claims against the states. The Supreme Court later concurred in its hearing of the case.


During his time as a judge, J. Michael Luttig was often compared to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom he had formerly acted as a clerk. In 2006, J. Michael Luttig left the Fourth District Court and took an executive position with Boeing Motors.